GABA is your brain's neurotransmitter for feelings of calm and relaxation.
That's why GABA supplements are one of the most popular natural solutions for better sleep.
You'll find tons of options at your local supplement store, but there's on thing that the products will never tell you...
You should never take a GABA supplement on its own... it just won't work!
Today I'm going to explain how GABA works, cover all of benefits like improved sleep and finally teach you how to recognize which products will work for you.
What is GABA?
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) was discovered in 1950 and has since been recognized as the dominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.
I like to call it the "chill" neurotransmitter as GABA's main benefits are calm, relaxation, and stress reduction.
Think of it this way, GABA is the opposite of your excitatory neurotransmitters (ie. adrenaline). Excitatory neurotransmitters in excess can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness. 
Related: GABA: The Brain's Downer
Here's an example of GABA at work:
- You have to take a huge test at 12pm and are feeling super anxious.
- Your brain will recognize this and try to balance out the effects by sending signals to your GABA Receptors.
- GABA inhibits the anxiety and you start to feel calmer and ready to take the exam.
Now you may be reading this and thinking, "Well, I know the anxious feeling but I definitely have trouble relaxing!"
This is commonly known as a deficiency.
GABA Deficiency and The Sleep Cycle
If you regularly experience restlessness, anxious feelings, or have trouble sleeping, it's possible that you could have a GABA deficiency.
We all have surpluses and deficiencies in certain neurotransmitters. This makes us who we are.
Understanding that you're low in one can be all of the difference in living a happier and healthier life.
Personally, I am GABA deficient. I often have difficulty relaxing when there is too much on my mind.
That's why I've been using supplements as an aid to help me fall asleep.
To understand how GABA influences a person’s sleeping patterns, it’s important that you understand the standard cycle that the brain undergoes each night during sleep.
The following is an overview of the different sleep stages.
Stage 1 is when you’re getting sleepy and are ready to drift off.
Stage 2 - Your brainwave activity quickens and follows a steadier rhythm. Your core temperature and heart rate decrease.
Stage 3 sees the emergence of deeper, slower brain waves. Here, you switch from light sleep to deep sleep.
Stage 4 is the deep sleep stage, also known as delta sleep. This is a vitally important stage because it’s where much of the highest-quality sleep occurs.
- Stage 5 is the REM (rapid-eye movement) stage, where most dreams occur.
Stages 3 and 4 are especially important because this is when the body decreases both cortisol (the stress hormone) and inflammation.
This is also the crucial stage of sleep when your immune system grows stronger. 
Infographic courtesy of https://blog.hubspot.com/
Optimizing the 5 sleep stages is crucial for perfecting your sleep at night.
And GABA is the the key neurotransmitter that "kicks off" each stage.
When GABA levels are low, you struggle to get a full night's rest.
Deficiency makes it harder to fall asleep and increases the odds that you'll toss, turn, and wake up repeatedly during the night.
Plus being low GABA can prevent you from reaching sleep stages 3, 4, and 5.
These stares are where the most important restorative processes take place. 
What About Sleeping Pills?
Many people turn to prescription and OTC sleeping pills as a cure for their insomnia.
The most popular drugs are benzodiazepines (Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax). These work on the GABA receptors and are widely respected as fantastic medicines for people suffering from insomnia.
However these drugs can have dangerous side effects and can be highly addictive.
Meanwhile a natural sleep aid (aka a gaba supplement) can do the same job except even better!
How to choose the right GABA Supplement
First and foremost, for a GABA supplement to be effective, it has to make it to your brain.
This is easier said than done.
GABA is a self-inhibiting compound. This means the brain tightly controls whether or not it is allowed into the brain.
The control process happens at the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB determines what’s allowed to flow from the brain into the blood and vice versa.
Its main purpose it to protect the brain from toxins in the bloodstream.
So if your body is producing less GABA than its supposed to and you're running at a deficiency, an ordinary supplement won't solve the problem.
It won't cross the blood-brain barrier and you will not see any of the benefits like relaxation, calm and improved sleep.
Unfortunately, supplement companies that sell GABA don’t always make note of this important fact.
The truth is, GABA supplements work best when taken as an enhanced supplement, or in combination with other supplements.
Improving GABA Absorption and its Benefits
Since taking GABA on its own won't help, here are a few ways to increase absorption rates.
This way your efforts and dollars aren't wasted and you're reaching sleep stages 3, 4 and 5.
Increasing Absorption Through Diet
While you can’t eat food that contains GABA, you can certainly eat foods that contain glutamate and glutamic acid.
These are the precursors your body uses to manufacture GABA.
Foods with lots of glutamate and glutamic acid include grass-fed meats, eggs, dairy products, fish, sea vegetables, tomatoes and mushrooms.
Fermented foods like kimchi also have a positive impact on GABA levels. 
Improve Your Nitric Oxide Levels
Nitric oxide opens and expands blood vessels.
This way oxygen, nutrients and supplemental compounds can be transported more easily throughout your body. 
It also makes it easier for substances to pass through the blood-brain barrier.
Taking this in combination with things like GABA, which typically don’t pass through the BBB at all, allows for them to pass through the barrier in small amounts.
Supplements that improve nitric oxide levels include.
- L-citrulline is an amino acid that the the body converts it into L-arginine, which effectively boosts levels of nitric oxide.
- Grape Seed extract is another fantastic booster of nitric oxide.
The combination of these two nutritional supplements will make it much easier for GABA to travel through your bloodstream.
Eventually it will pass through the blood-brain barrier where it can exert its benefits on your brain. 
You should be cautious not to overdo it, since you don’t want to allow any toxins through the BBB.
Stop GABA from Breaking Down
All nutrients and hormones are eventually broken down by our body and absorbed or excreted.
GABA is broken down by GABA transaminase.
If you inhibit the action of GABA transaminase, it will prevent your brain from getting rid of the GABA that you might still need by making more of it available for a longer time.
One supplement thought to be particularly effective at inhibiting this enzyme is rosmarinic extract.
This is a naturally occurring flavonoid that can be found in herbs like rosemary, sage, mint and basil.
It’s been used for ages in aromatherapy because it produces relaxing effects through its ingestion and inhalation---probably due to its action as an inhibitor of GABA transaminase. 
GABA is one of the most important supplements to take for a better night's sleep.
It’s vital for ensuring a healthy sleep schedule, for reducing anxiety, and for promoting well-being.